Thursday, April 21, 2011

w-HOOP-ty Do.

You've probably seen this before ~ it's the perfect easy and cheap way to decorate a wall, particularly the wall above your sewing machine::

Just take a collection of sewing hoops, fill them with fabrics and hang!

Rather than use just printed cottons, I wanted to add some variety to my wall. The blue and white checks on the left are from an old, old shower curtain from my parents' house. The brown, burlap fabric with the white stripe is from a coffee sack. I'd like to enhance that one with an embroidered flower or two, maybe try out some crewel work. The igloo print on the bottom was made from a linoleum block that I carved in high school. As you'll see soon, I've used some of the fabric in the large hoop for a special, secret wedding treat. And finally, I have a few tiny hoops to fill in some of the larger gaps, but I've temporarily hijacked them for another project.

There you have it ~ something so nice and easy that dresses up the wall and allows for continuous modification as inspiration strikes!

ETA:: speaking of easy decorations, I'm still loving my simple little vase.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday Soundtrack

Artist :: The Weepies

Song :: Gotta Have You

Monday, April 18, 2011

The garden continues to unveil one surprise after another! It's quickly getting ahead of me ~ new flowers are blooming before I've had time to identify the ones that bloomed the week before.

For example, what's this little beauty? I've found some close matches when I search for anenomes, but nothing that is a sure match. For a few days, this was my only view, and I almost overlooked it because it really is so tiny {the mass of green in the picture above is from another, yet-to-be-identified plant}::

Then there are these deep purple, fuzzy guys:: A few of these are planted near the mailbox, and they're taking forevvvvvvvvver to open up!

Under the plum tree is this little guy:: That opened to become this::

And it's close, but not exactly the same as this one peaking out from under a little evergreen tree:: This last flower appears to be some type of anemone blanda.

Any ideas? The comments are open, and any help identifying the plants above will be greatly appreciated, because as you're about to see, my naming schemes are not very helpful!

.... While you're thinking, I'll leave you with our one identifiable success of the week. Bloodroot! Such an unfriendly name for such a pretty flower:: Looking from above ground, I assumed a different name for bloodroot : Dinosaur Egg Flower. Can you see the resemblance as they emerge from the ground:: Searching for "dinosaur egg flower" didn't get me anywhere, and I can't even remember how I lucked upon Bloodroot. All I know is that after learning the name, there was not a fivehead*-slapping moment where I exclaimed "of course! why didn't I think Bloodroot?"

Bloodroot gets its name from the red sap that emerges when the root is cut, and that's not the only awesome thing about this plant::
~ The sap can be used to dye fabrics and yarns. Useful since I got this book for Christmas!
~ It has been used by Native Americans as an herbal remedy and included in name-brand toothpastes as antibacterial and anti-plaque agents.
~ Its seeds are spread by ants! The ants carry the seeds back to their nest where they eat the fleshy, protein and fat-rich part of the seed called an elaiosome. They then leave the rest of the seed, where it will grow in the next season, nourished by the rich soil produced by wastes in the ants' nest.
In searching for Bloodroot, I came across the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum blog. It seems to be a fairly new blog, but I'm really excited about it because they are posting pictures of plants as they bloom. Being in Maryland they're just a week or two ahead of my garden, so it should be a great resource to help me identify plants throughout the season!

*My forehead's so big that it's been referred to as a fivehead. The offenders shall remain unnamed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Burning the candle at both ends.

You'll have to pardon the interruption, there will be no music this week as the only sound I'm hearing is the purr of my computer fan. In light (haha) of this crazy week of deadlines, discussing candles is only appropriate.

Remember this post about our unsuccessful first attempt at candle-making?

The problem with our test candles was that we experienced too much pooling of the wax, enough that it suffocated our flame. A bit of research was required, and little did I know how extensive the world of wicks would be. There are wicks with zinc, paper, and cotton cores, flat braided wicks, square braided wicks, and even wooden wicks! The wick you choose should be a function of the diameter of your candle, whether it's a pillar or a container candle, and the type of wax... if you're interested, here's a great chart to get you started.

Since we were working with beeswax container candles, that's where I focused my research. I discovered that beeswax, unlike petroleum wax, is particularly viscous when melted, and it requires a thicker wick {more capillary action} to pull the wax to the flame to be burned. As a result, we needed square-braided wicks which were designed specifically for beeswax. Square-braided wicks come with their own numbering system from 6/0, "six-aught", to 1/0, and then from #1 to #10. 6/0 wicks are for the smallest candles and #10 are for the largest. Something between a 2/0 and a 3/0 was perfect for our containers, so I went with the 3/0 {it turned out to be a lucky guess}. Silly me for thinking this candle-making was going to be easy!

Here's test candle #2:: We have a winner! When I lit this candle, the glass was full of wax, and after 6 or so hours I took that picture. The candle burned cleanly and slowly ~ just perfect for our all-day wedding affair. At first I was skeptical ~ the full surface of wax was not melting, just the area around the wick. After the flame was below the level of the glass, the problem went away, and we had an even, clean melt with a nice flame. I'm chalking initial uneven burning up to a draft when the flame was exposed; to eliminate that problem, we decided to only fill the glasses half-way with wax.

In addition to pulling the wax to the flame, the square-braided wicks form a "carbon cap" at their tip which makes the wick extra hot and helps it to melt a larger area of wax. This is particularly useful in our case because with the right size wick it will melt the whole top surface and there will be no wax stuck to the sides of the glasses as the candle burns down.

On a whim I decided to fill some tall jelly jars with wax:: With a bit of wire or twine, I think these will look great hanging from the trees and under the arbors. Oh, and see that polka-dot thing in the background? It's one of our two wedding-day kickballs {the other one is green with hearts}. We still have to rent the tents and tuxes, but I can sleep a little easier knowing we have kickball checked off of our list ;-).

And a serendipitous extra ~ we cut more bottles than we needed for the candles. I picked the ones with the best edges to fill first, and only used about half of the glasses. That's when I realized that these green glasses make the cutest little vases:: When filled with a bunch of low-cut ruffled flowers like carnations, we can hide any imperfections in the cut edge. It's a fun, easy, and oh-so-cheap addition to our wedding {and house} decor!

Here's a picture with my phone for scale::

And one more because eating breakfast next to this little vase makes me smile::

As an aside ~ I never found one comprehensive source with detailed information on every type of wick, wax, and candle type. There are plenty of websites and books that give you bits and pieces of info, but was looking for the Holy Grail of wick info and never found it. If you have a great resource, please pass it along!

Friday, April 08, 2011

There's more life in the garden this week!

The sedum buds are starting to open up and grow. April graced us with a full week of showers, and the water forms these perfect little pillows on the sedum::

Outside our kitchen window is a shrub of some sort. My money's on hydrangea, but I could be wrong. It's just starting to unfurl its leaves, so it may be a while until I see some flower action to confirm my guess::

And finally, I can't wait for these guys to grow to full size. Can you identify the flower? Lilacs!!! We have a row of them along one side of the house. No more secret lilac-stealing missions for me, there will be more than enough to fill the house!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wednesday Soundtrack

I have some fun music for you today!

I made my way to Philly last weekend for a little house concert. The house was packed, the food and drinks delicious, and the music was fantastic/fun/funny/phenomenal:: Pearl and the Beard, Tinsmith, and Nervous but Excited. yeppers, it was good.

Since the get-together was in West Philly, I thought it was the only appropriate to share this Pearl and the Beard Will Smith mix::